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No birth control for you!
The latest from America's Catholic bishops:
As Catholic bishops and American citizens, we address an urgent summons to our fellow Catholics and fellow Americans to be on guard, for religious liberty is under attack, both at home and abroad. [...]

Is our most cherished freedom truly under threat? Sadly, it is. This is not a theological or legal dispute without real world consequences. Consider the following:  HHS mandate for contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs. [...] In an unprecedented way, the federal government will both force religious institutions to facilitate and fund a product contrary to their own moral teaching and purport to define which religious institutions are "religious enough" to merit protection of their religious liberty. [Emphasis added.]

Let's see this for what it is—a demand that secular institutions with ties to religion be exempt from secular law. There is no other way to describe this. See The encroachment of religion on our secular government Part 1, The encroachment of religion on our secular government Part 2, and The progressive fight against the encroachment of religion on our secular government. And this demand for exemption from our secular laws is antithetical to our American system of government. The separation of church and state protects the state from encroachment by religious fiat. It also protects religion from encroachment by the government. Secular laws apply to us all, without regard to religious beliefs. That is a bedrock principle in America. The American Catholic bishops are intent on undermining this bedrock principle.

(Continued on the other side)  

What is particularly insidious about this campaign by the American Catholic bishops is that they have engaged in overt political activism, waging a vicious campaign against President Obama and Democrats. Reporting on the latest attacks by the Catholic bishops, the New York Times reports:

In an election year, liberal Catholics have accused the bishops of making the church an arm of the Republican Party in the drive to defeat President Obama — an accusation that the bishops reject.

The American Catholic Church has chosen to divide its flock—a flock that has decidedly rejected its teaching on birth control—along political lines. Their attack on Democrats and the separation of church and state has been so overt that this time the Catholic bishops felt obliged to add a line about the Republican war on immigrants.

The Catholic bishops stated:

State immigration laws. Several states have recently passed laws that forbid what the government deems "harboring" of undocumented immigrants—and what the Church deems Christian charity and pastoral care to those immigrants. Perhaps the most egregious of these is in Alabama, where the Catholic bishops, in cooperation with the Episcopal and Methodist bishops of Alabama, filed suit against the law[.]
I oppose the Alabama law with every fiber of my being. But the suit brought by the Catholic Church in Alabama is without merit. There is no constitutional right for religions engaged in secular activity to be exempt from our secular law. The bishops argue:
The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America issued a statement about the administration's contraception and sterilization mandate that captured exactly the danger that we face:
Most troubling, is the Administration's underlying rationale for its decision, which appears to be a view that if a religious entity is not insular, but engaged with broader society, it loses its "religious" character and liberties. Many faiths firmly believe in being open to and engaged with broader society and fellow citizens of other faiths. The Administration's ruling makes the price of such an outward approach the violation of an organization's religious principles. This is deeply disappointing.
This is the most troubling aspect of the bishops' argument—the attempt to redefine its secular activity into religious activity. As I wrote previously:

First, I want to be clear about what I am NOT espousing: I am not arguing that religions have no place in the public square, debating the issues of the day. To the contrary, like everyone else, religions have an absolute right to advocate for their views, and to fight for the reflection of their views, including those based on their religion, in our secular laws.

If the Catholic bishops believe what they say about contraception, contra Dionne, I do not see how they could, in principle, not fight for removal of contraceptive coverage from the insurance mandate. Dionne argues:

The bishops have legitimate concerns about the Obama compromise, including how to deal with self-insured entities and whether the wording of the HHS rule still fails to recognize the religious character of the church’s charitable work. But before the bishops accuse Obama of being an enemy of the faith, they might look for a settlement that’s within reach—one that would give the church the accommodations it needs while offering women the health coverage they need. I don’t see any communist plots in this.
This makes no sense. The Catholic Church is fighting against the inclusion of contraception in the mandate for health insurance (at least with regard to women). It is logical and reasonable for the Church to continue to fight against contraception.

What was never logical or reasonable was Dionne's embrace of the principle of making special exemptions from our secular law for religiously affiliated institutions engaged in secular activities. Being an employer, outside of church employees, is a secular activity. Running a hospital is a secular activity. Running a school is a secular activity. When engaged in secular activities, religions (and religious persons) must abide  by our secular laws. This simple proposition should not be difficult to comprehend and accept for a progressive who believes in the separation of church and state. But Dionne has lost his way, chasing the fool's gold of religious "allies" for progressive issues.

Consider Dionne's idea of "the religious character of the church’s charitable work" and what that might mean. If the charitable work of religions, even that which is secular in nature, is considered to be a religious practice, then the government cannot support such "religious work" without running afoul of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. In the 2002 case, Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, the Supreme Court upheld a Cleveland school vouchers program that provided funds to religiously affiliated schools against an Establishment Clause challenge. Writing for a 5-4 majority, Chief Justice Rehnquist stated:

The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, applied to the States through the Fourteenth Amendment, prevents a State from enacting laws that have the “purpose” or “effect” of advancing or inhibiting religion. Agostini v. Felton, 521 U.S. 203, 222—223 (1997) (“[W]e continue to ask whether the government acted with the purpose of advancing or inhibiting religion [and] whether the aid has the ‘effect’ of advancing or inhibiting religion” (citations omitted)). There is no dispute that the program challenged here was enacted for the valid secular purpose of providing educational assistance to poor children in a demonstrably failing public school system. Thus, the question presented is whether the Ohio program nonetheless has the forbidden “effect” of advancing or inhibiting religion.
It is notable that Dionne's formulation of a "religious character" of religion's secular activities has not been adopted by the Catholic Church, which instead argues in terms of religious freedom in secular life. Unlike Dionne, the Church seems aware that to argue that its secular activities are religious in character would put in jeopardy all the public funding the Church receives for its secular activities. In Zelman, the Court upheld the transfer of public funds to religiously affiliated institutions, reasoning that:
[W]here a government aid program is neutral with respect to religion, and provides assistance directly to a broad class of citizens who, in turn, direct government aid to religious schools wholly as a result of their own genuine and independent private choice, the program is not readily subject to challenge under the Establishment Clause. A program that shares these features permits government aid to reach religious institutions only by way of the deliberate choices of numerous individual recipients. The incidental advancement of a religious mission, or the perceived endorsement of a religious message, is reasonably attributable to the individual recipient, not to the government, whose role ends with the disbursement of benefits.
According to Dionne, the benefits will not be "incidental," but a primary aid to activities of a "religious character," and it will not rely on individual choices. Thus, even following the hard right view that Zelman represents regarding public funding for religious affiliated secular activities is put in jeopardy by Dionne's reasoning.

The reality is that Dionne compromises on the separation of church and state in an attempt to co-opt religion on his side of certain arguments and becomes miffed when the Church does not stop precisely where he wanted it to on the issue of contraception. The sacrifice of principle by Dionne rendered no practical benefit—the very definition of a terrible "compromise."

By accepting the flawed principle of "religious liberty" from the requirement of adhering to secular laws with regard to secular activities, Dionne has made a figurative deal with the devil and has no true argument to counter the bishops' appeal to "religious liberty." The bishops' most recent statement says:

[W]e wish to clarify what this debate is—and is not—about. This is not about access to contraception [...] An unwarranted government definition of religion. The mandate includes an extremely narrow definition of what HHS deems a “religious employer” deserving exemption—employers who, among other things, must hire and serve primarily those of their own faith. We are deeply concerned about this new definition of who we are as people of faith and what constitutes our ministry. The introduction of this unprecedented defining of faith communities and their ministries has precipitated this struggle for religious freedom. Government has no place defining religion and religious ministry. HHS thus creates and enforces a new distinction—alien both to our Catholic tradition and to federal law—between our houses of worship and our great ministries of service to our neighbors, namely, the poor, the homeless, the sick, the students in our schools and universities, and others in need, of any faith community or none. Cf. Deus Caritas Est, Nos. 20-33. We are commanded both to love and to serve the Lord; laws that protect our freedom to comply with one of these commands but not the other are nothing to celebrate.
E.J. Dionne has basically made the same argument in arguing for the "accommodation" for religion in our secular government. Dionne has argued that:
The bishops have legitimate concerns about the Obama compromise, including how to deal with self-insured entities and whether the wording of the HHS rule still fails to recognize the religious character of the church’s charitable work.
No, they do not. And if they do, then Dionne cannot argue against the latest actions of the bishops on the basis of principle. Dionne wishes the bishops to cede their opposition to contraception in their secular activities, in Dionne's words, of a "religious character." There is no logic or reason in Dionne's position.

Dionne's problem remains his support for "accommodation" to religions in the secular activities. Dionne cannot muster an argument to distinguish his position in principle from that of the bishops.

The progressive position is this: (1) insure religious liberty and freedom by complete government non-interference with freedom of worship; and (2) insure religious liberty and freedom by insisting that no religion shall be exempt from our secular laws when such religions engage in secular activity.

These are the basic tenets of separation of church and state that have guided us since the founding of the republic. They were enunciated by JFK in his celebrated 1960 speech. They are a central tenet of progressivism.

The Catholic bishops have chosen to become an ally of the Republican Party in their ongoing campaign against President Obama and the Democratic Party. I leave it to others to decide whether this should require a re-thinking of the tax-exempt status of the Catholic Church in America.


I don't object philosophically with the Catholic Church becoming an overtly  political institution. I do object to those who insist on having us ignore this fact.

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Comment Preferences

  •  The Roman Catholic Magesterium: (13+ / 0-)

    The best argument for being an Episcopalian.

    Santorum: Man on Dog; Romney: Dog on Car. Ren and Stimpy: Dog on Cat

    by commonmass on Fri Apr 13, 2012 at 06:07:17 PM PDT

  •  How many "wars" are we fighting in this country? (5+ / 0-)

    We have a war on women, war on contraception, war on workers, war on gays, war on illegal goodness !  

    It is good script for the upcoming election though.  I have to admit that for sure.

    Only horses should wear blinders.

    by independantman on Fri Apr 13, 2012 at 06:08:19 PM PDT

    •  The war on contraception is faux (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      commonmass, Gooserock

      I read a very credible diary on this site indicating that the Bishops had already set aside funds to fight Obama and just diverted them from an argument about gay marriage to an argument about birth control.

      Now, I think there's a real administration screw up here. Supposedly, Biden told Obama he was stepping into a big trap, and wasn't recognized.

      That said, it's stupid.

      •  I think your perception of this is (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Judge Moonbox, boophus, Little Flower

        completely inverted from the reality of the situation.  

      •  The Vice President, IIRC, is a Catholic himself. (4+ / 0-)

        I was flip up-thread about Roman Catholics (used to be one myself) but there ARE some truly beautiful, devout ones with a sense of humor. Like Joe Biden.

        There's a reason the President picked Biden as a running mate, and I agree, he should listen to his VP from time to time. Joe knows what he's talking about.

        Santorum: Man on Dog; Romney: Dog on Car. Ren and Stimpy: Dog on Cat

        by commonmass on Fri Apr 13, 2012 at 06:27:12 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  I'm Not Convinced the Trap Wasn't Set for the RW (5+ / 0-)

        by Obama. He's definitely capable of being that smart about a campaign, and even if he didn't set it off on purpose, he's likely to be smart enough to capitalize on it.

        The RW explosion against birth control has given Democrats the only broad, mainstream, personally emotional issue to campaign on in generations, at the same time it forced the Republicans to stand up and drop their camouflage. It's why he's got double digit support from women.

        The global economy is legally allowed to campaign here so the money against Obama is essentially infinite and was always going to greatly surpass ours.

        The only thing we have that can defend against campaign spending is an emotional, mainstream-motivating issue that requires almost no money to popularize. Obama's move triggered the Republicans to give it to us in a way that we didn't have to spend a dime publicizing.

        I'm profoundly pessimistic about the US but in this particular case, blunder or 19-D chess, I think it's a huge help.

        We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

        by Gooserock on Fri Apr 13, 2012 at 06:29:32 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  It's the employees' money! (4+ / 0-)

        What's bogus about the Catholic Church saying that Obama's contraceptive policy violates the church's freedom of conscience is that the health insurance is the employees' money. It's not a charitable contribution. It's not a cost of doing business on the order of heating the buildings.

        The first employer provided health insurance programs were started because the unions demanded it. Other companies tried to beat the unions to the punch, offering health insurance before the unions could ask for it. Many companies started in World War II, when wage controls meant that companies couldn't compete for workers by offering higher wages, so they started health insurance programs to make themselves more attractive.

        That the employers were given the responsibility of managing the health insurance programs is a historical accident. The Catholic Church claims that fulfilling their  fiduciary responsibility conflicts with their moral code; therefore they must be allowed to tell their workers how to live their life. The real resolution to this conflict is to hand the management of the health insurance over to a consortium of unions and professional organizations.

        Greg McKendry, Linda Kraeger, Dr. George Tiller, Steven Johns. Victims of Wingnut violence

        by Judge Moonbox on Fri Apr 13, 2012 at 07:25:44 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Not even that (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Judge Moonbox

          In the "compromise" the health insurer provides the BC free, because in the long run it's far cheaper than pregnancy.

          Remember, institutions where it was assumed most employees were Catholic were always exempt. (Say, a small Catholic elementary school or the Church custodians.) The thousands of employees at Georgetown or University of Detroit are not required to be Catholic at all. These are businesses, plain and simple.

    •  cut to the chase (10+ / 0-)

      basically this war is the Catholic Church vs the Non-Catholic universe.

      The Church has a bit of gall having Bishop Dolan as their public face as he has been the "fixer" for the Church in trying to stifle reports of priests molesting children and then trying to  conceal Church assets when those victims sued the Church.  What a sweetheart of a guy

  •  Please open a new browser right now! (4+ / 0-)

    Write the Bishop of your own diocese. (No, you don't necessarily have to be Catholic) and ask them to give the same emphasis to the rights of the elderly and the poor that they give to the rights of the unborn (or even unconceived!) Tell them you won't provide cash "overhead" until they do.

    Do it with respect. But send the message. I sent my own, and got a couple friends to do the same today.

    And my own plea: there are many charities that should not suffer because of the bishops' political action. Keep them in mind, as you avoid providing the bishops a slush fund for political action.

    •  Sorry, my bishop, and I'm a recovering Catholic, (5+ / 0-)

      two years in, is busy explaining why the most newly identified pedophile priest was returned to parish duties after undergoing treatment 12 years ago for pedophile tendencies.

      Have a large number of children killed my bishop's mother; his step mother than gave birth to the second brood.

      "Since when did obeying corporate power become patriotic." Going the Distance

      by Going the Distance on Fri Apr 13, 2012 at 06:29:25 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I wrote Rick Santorum's Bishop (4+ / 0-)

      and pleaded with him to discipline him for apostasy. I am quite sure it fell on deaf ears, but things that Santorum was espousing are in direct disagreement with Roman Catholic social teaching.

      Santorum: Man on Dog; Romney: Dog on Car. Ren and Stimpy: Dog on Cat

      by commonmass on Fri Apr 13, 2012 at 06:30:08 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Sorry, but I disagree. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Why not tell the bishop to step aside?  Why show him respect when he shows you no respect via his actions?  What's the deal with nicely threatening to withhold money?  Just say it straight up -- your money is cut off.  

      These guys do not hold the keys to heaven.  If they are screwing over local charities by their antics, then the local charities should disassociate themselves.  I know that I specifically avoid Catholic charities for this very reason.  The guys at the top need to be yanked down.  And many of them should be in prison.    Locals need to do something about it or quit complaining.  

      Yes good work is done locally, but the local people are like sheeple to their masters.  This should not be, especially when so many are being harmed by so few at the top who are accountable to nobody.

      Left is right and right is wrong.

      by busternjake on Fri Apr 13, 2012 at 09:01:54 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  No need to be sorry to dis (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        It's a position I respect. Yet I can't see cutting off funds for the ministries to our migrants, homeless,  etc in this community. Catholics are great folks. My husband keeps saying "Isn't there some other Catholic church without those bishops?"

  •  MAKING It an Arm of Republicans? Breaking 1973. (10+ / 0-)

    For years election season has been celebrated at Catholic churches around here with this festive display of dead abortion baby crosses
    Image Hosted by

    to remind everyone to vote against the party of economic and ethnic justice for the people.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Fri Apr 13, 2012 at 06:19:12 PM PDT

    •  If they really were concerned about abortion... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Calamity Jean, Spoc42

      It's been 39 years since the Roe v. Wade decision was handed down. The antiabortionists have basically clung the politics of insult, and have not produced any permanent shift opinion. One can credibly accuse them of wanting to keep the issue of abortion alive to keep the Reagan Democrats voting Republican.

      If they did have a reality check that proved the basis of their opposition--that personhood begins at conception--they should have brought it out long ago. The argument that it's obvious to them should have been dismissed by now. Maybe they've admitted to themselves that they can't prove their contention, but are too vain to go public with that admission. The accusation that they want to keep the issue alive is one they should accept, at least as a wake-up call.

      Greg McKendry, Linda Kraeger, Dr. George Tiller, Steven Johns. Victims of Wingnut violence

      by Judge Moonbox on Fri Apr 13, 2012 at 08:34:44 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Great way to clarify the issue (3+ / 0-)

    at least for me.

    The progressive position is this: (1) insure religious liberty and freedom by complete government non-interference with freedom of worship; and (2) insure religious liberty and freedom by insisting that no religion shall be exempt from our secular laws when such religions engage in secular activity.
    That seems to be not just the progressive position, but the First Amendment position.
  •  What about their war on alter boys? (4+ / 0-)

    Oh, right, I forgot... "...move along, people...nothing to see here..."

    Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect -- Mark Twain. Ode to Social ME-dia: Sweets and tweets, self indulgently fed. First widens seats, second fattens heads -- Dcrolg

    by dcrolg on Fri Apr 13, 2012 at 06:26:30 PM PDT

  •  at one time the Catholic Church was engaged (6+ / 0-)

    broadly in the secular world to the extent that kings and kingdoms rose and fell on the word of the Pope.  The Church was a kingdom unto itself, even with its own language so that any priest meeting another could converse without the others present understanding them.

    The heyday of the Church being able to influence secular events were the Crusades and we all know how well those went.  Perhaps the greatest achievement of the Crusades was the sack of Constantinople which severely weakened an already tottering empire.  In the end it fell to the Ottomans.  Way to go.

    It may be argued that the Church's violent reaction to the advent of Islam and its attempts to reclaim the Holy Land helped set in motion the current adversarial relationship between Christianity and Islam.  Again way to go.

    And the bishops really think we want a repeat of that era?

  •  Religious activism (4+ / 0-)

    Catholics and fundamentalist christians have many beliefs that are diametrically opposed to progressive/democratic thought.

    So, it is not surprising that a great many posts and diaries here are directed against them.

    Only horses should wear blinders.

    by independantman on Fri Apr 13, 2012 at 06:27:30 PM PDT

  •  I understand the Catholic Church is in trouble (5+ / 0-)

    The number of priests and nuns is way down.

    Maybe they are trying to become more like the evangelical fundamentalists that are increasing in numbers.

    To the degree they get involved in politics, they should loose their non-profit taxation status.

    Daily Kos an oasis of truth. Truth that leads to action.

    by Shockwave on Fri Apr 13, 2012 at 06:27:41 PM PDT

  •  A simple request to the bishops (5+ / 0-)

    Please, please, PLEASE keep this up guys.    Because nobody who doesn't consider Sean Hannity an intellectual actually believes this is really about religious freedom.   And, if contraception is going to be the main issue for this next election, anybody who has a non-medieval view of human reproduction is probably not gonna vote for universal sperm sanctity.   You are doing grave damage to the soulless politicians to whom you have sold your souls.

    Please, please, PLEASE keep it up!  

    •  They aren't doing well *here.* (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      They are doing extremely well in Central and South America. Immigrants for nations south of here are swelling the pews all over the country. They are also swelling demands being placed on the Church's charitable resources.

      If immigrants to this country had a faster path to citizenship, the Church would imeediately be at least twice as powerful politically.

      They say "cut back" - we say "fight back"!

      by Louise on Fri Apr 13, 2012 at 06:50:57 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  With the Catholics jockeying for theocracy (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Shockwave, commonmass, TheLawnRanger

    almost as hard as the Evangelicals these days, what happens when one of them wins the governing of this nation?  I shudder to think.

    Where does a person of faith see the line clearly though?  Isn't it those of us who are kind of faithless that keep sweeping the dirt off the bases so that nobody gets too stupid around here and gets us into one hell of a war in the streets mess?

  •  too bad I've already left the Catholic Church... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    commonmass, Militarytracy, truth2008

    I would leave again now if possible.

    Macca's Meatless Monday

    by VL Baker on Fri Apr 13, 2012 at 06:49:43 PM PDT

  •  I don't know why (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    commonmass, Calamity Jean

    we shy away from discussing tax exempt status in connection with this issue.  To do so has a way of highlighting the bishops' duplicity, since the IRS code is sufficiently clear, if not explicit, in providing the definition of a "church."

    IRS: "An organization qualifies as a church only if its principal purpose or function is that of a church." See Rev. Rul. 56–262, 1956–1 C.B. 131  
    Clearly, performing a tonsillectomy or removing someone's gall bladder are not "functions of a church" by any stretch.

    Judging "religiously affiliated institutions" is a little trickier, so the IRS gives us:

    IRS: Characteristics of a "church":

    a distinct legal existence

    a recognized creed and form of worship

    a definite and distinct ecclesiastical government

    a formal code of doctrine and discipline

    a distinct religious history

    a membership not associated with any other church or denomination

    a complete organization of ordained ministers ministering to their congregations

    ordained ministers selected after completing prescribed courses of study

    a literature of its own

    established places of worship

    regular congregations

    regular religious services

    Sunday schools for religious instruction of the young

    schools for the preparation of its ministers

    In the US, churches enjoy tax-exempt status, but the government is also prohibited from providing direct taxpayer subsidies.  Why shouldn't we talk about those subsidies, if the bishops want to argue that their schools, hospitals, etc. are "religious institutions" (churches in the eyes of the IRS)?
  •  Why Do the Bishops Hate Workers? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    commonmass, Calamity Jean

    Why are the bishops waging war on workers? It's hard enough to make a living. And these people want to take away a worker's right to use their compensation for the things that benefit them the most.

    When HHS made some bland rule to protect the rights of workers, the bishops threw such a hissy fit that Obama had to step in and make a "compromise" so that they'd shut up. But they don't shut up. There's nothing to satisfy them. They want a theocracy.

    Look, if they want theocracy they can move to Saudi Arabia. They can have all the theocracy they want there, and more.

  •  This is all very interesting to a Jew like me (4+ / 0-)

    I think a lot of this has to do with the religious roots of the nation, such as they are (Anglicans, Puritans and Quakers) and the difficulties they had adjusting to a LARGE Catholic migration in the 1840s.  Then, the Catholic hierarchy had something real to complain about.

    The problem is that this isn't supposed to be a Christian nation (as I'll show in a US to 1865 diary the week after next), and all Congress is enjoined from doing is prohibiting the free exercise of religion.  Free exercise -- in churches, not in the form of a Christian version of sharia law, whichever denomination is doing it.

    Obama kept the church/state apparatus Bush 43 set up, so the chances of his administration doing this are slim, BUT any church that intrudes into politics as a church should have its tax-exempt status taken away, much as Bush 43 tried to do to All Saints Episcopal in Pasadena, CA when they were too vocal in opposing the war in Iraq.

    -7.75, -8.10; All it takes is security in your own civil rights to make you complacent.

    by Dave in Northridge on Fri Apr 13, 2012 at 07:02:32 PM PDT

  •  Here is my problem with your argument (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    How is giving to the poor, establishing hospitals, and operating food banks secular?  These churches are engaged in these activities because of their religious values.  I guess you can say when you engage others that are not of your religion then you can say that's secular, but other religions might object to that.

    Santorum/Bachmann 2012

    by sujigu on Fri Apr 13, 2012 at 07:09:38 PM PDT

  •  the only way the republicans can deter the war (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    on women they have going on is to define it as a war on religion. The article from the The Statements Journal makes the case better than i ever could:

    it lays out the reasoning they started this on a national level (to shield what is going on statewide) AND win the white house, senate, and house of reps. the republicans HAVE to have a war on religion no matter what. this is the only way to get the base to the polls. Keep expecting the bishops to do their part to make sure that happens.

    But make no mistake, the war is on the american citizens and if we don't keep pointing that out, they will get the war on religion they want.

    Earth: Mostly harmless ~ The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (revised entry)

    by yawnimawke on Fri Apr 13, 2012 at 07:12:57 PM PDT

  •  what happens when catholic bishops take a break (0+ / 0-)

    from raping and sodomizing their parishioners' little boys.

  •  Bedrock principles? (0+ / 0-)

    When both parties colluded, through active implementation of passive acceptance, of widespread and ongoing torture as an accepted and acceptable feature of US policy, any idea that there is some "bedrock principle" in American life  that is inviolable got stood on its head.  I'm from the generation that grew up after WWII, that explained to us why there were Nuremburg trials, why North Korean prisoner of war camps and Turkish jails were the sort of things particularly offensive to America's alleged "bedrock principles".  And then a bipartisan coalition of dominant figres of both par5ties, of that same generation as I am, proceeded to implement exactly those sort of policies as the embodiment of American policy, or looked the other way when warning flares and flags were raised on the sacred grounds of perceived partisan political expediency.  So the time of concerning ourselves with "the bedrock principles" of American society is over.

    The law, in its majestic equality, forbids rich and poor alike from sleeping under bridges. ~ Anatole France

    by ActivistGuy on Sat Apr 14, 2012 at 12:34:38 AM PDT

  •  Bishops need a lesson (0+ / 0-)

    The Bishops' challenge affords an opportunity to affirm our religious freedom and show how their complaints of infringement are wrong.

    First, the Constitution.  Confronted by questions about the government requiring or prohibiting something that conflicts with someone’s faith, the courts have generally ruled that under the Constitution the government cannot enact laws specifically aimed at a particular religion (which would be regarded a constraint on religious liberty contrary to the First Amendment), but can enact laws generally applicable to everyone or at least broad classes of people (e.g., laws concerning pollution, contracts, torts, crimes, discrimination, employment, etc.) and can require everyone, including those who may object on religious grounds, to abide by them. (E.g.,

    When the legislature anticipates that application of such laws may put some individuals in moral binds, the legislature may, as a matter of grace (not constitutional compulsion), provide exemptions for conscientious objectors.

    The real question here then is not so much whether the First Amendment precludes the government from enacting and enforcing the generally applicable laws regarding availability of health insurance (it does not), but rather whether there is any need to exempt some employers in order to avoid forcing them to act contrary to their consciences.

    Second, no need for an exemption.  While the Bishops may well oppose the law’s policy of promoting the availability of medical services they find objectionable, the law does not put employers in the moral bind they suppose.  Many initially worked themselves into a lather with the false idea that the law forced employers to provide their employees with health care plans offering services the employers considered immoral.  The fact is that employers have the option of not providing any such plans and instead simply paying assessments to the government. Unless one supposes that the employers’ religion forbids payments of money to the government (all of us should enjoy such a religion), then the law’s requirement to pay assessments does not compel those employers to act contrary to their beliefs. Problem solved.  Solved--unless an employer really aims not just to avoid a moral bind, but rather to control his employees' health plan choices so they conform to the employer's religious beliefs, and avoid paying the assessments that otherwise would be owed.  For that, an employer need an exemption from the law.

    Indeed, some continued clamoring for such an exemption, complaining that by paying assessments to the government they would indirectly be paying for the very things they opposed.  They seemingly missed that that is not a moral dilemma justifying an exemption to avoid being forced to act contrary to one’s beliefs, but rather is a gripe common to many taxpayers–who don’t much like paying taxes and who object to this or that action the government may take with the benefit of “their” tax dollars. Should each of us be exempted from paying our taxes so we aren’t thereby “forced” to pay for making war, providing health care, teaching evolution, or whatever else each of us may consider wrong or even immoral? If each of us could opt out of this or that law or tax with the excuse that our religion requires or allows it, the government and the rule of law could hardly operate.

    In any event, those complaining made enough of a stink that the government relented and announced that religious employers would be free to provide health plans with provisions to their liking (yay!) and not be required to pay the assessments otherwise required (yay!). Problem solved–again, even more.

    Nonetheless, some continue to complain, fretting that somehow the services they dislike will get paid for and somehow they will be complicit in that. They argue that if insurers (or, by the same logic, anyone, e.g., employees) pay for such services, those costs will somehow, someday be passed on to the employers in the form of demands for higher insurance premiums or higher wages.  They counter what they call the government’s “accounting gimmick” with one of their own:  “Catholic dollars.” These dollars, it seems, can only be used to pay for things conforming to an employer’s religious beliefs even after the employer spends them and they thus become the property of others, e.g., insurers or employees.

    I can only wonder what the Bishops would think of their tag-the-dollar idea if they realized that I have loosed some “atheist dollars” into society, some of which have found their way into the Bishops' wallets.  Those dollars can be used only for ungodly purposes, lest I suffer the indignity of paying for things I disbelieve.  If one lands in your hands, whatever you do, for god’s sake, don’t put it in the collection plate.

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